UPDATE: Thursday, Jan. 2, at 2:05 p.m. ET
While so many D-Leaguers are hoping for their ticket to the big stage, Rondo reportedly requested this trip in the opposite direction.
During his weekly appearance on the Toucher & Rich show on 98.5 FM The Sports Hub, Celtics team president Danny Ainge said Rondo was the one who came up with the idea of making a D-League stop:
He’s just looking for opportunities. About 10 days ago he was looking for the guys in the office to get their gear on and play 5-on-5. There’s not enough practice time; there have been 5-on-5 practices, but we’re not playing like it’s a game. He’s anxious to practice and to play. It was his idea to go practice with the Red Claws and possibly play with them at some point. But those are still in discussion. I’m not sure when he would do that, but that’s probably the next step.
If this is what it takes for him to find his comfort level, then it's something that needs to happen. Let's just hope Rondo realizes his D-League stat sheets won't actually hold any weight in NBA waters.
---End of update---
Rondo, who's still rehabbing from the torn ACL he suffered in late January, has been finding his comfort on the practice floor but remains without a return date. Celtics coach Brad Stevens said the next step of the point guard's return could include a stint with Boston's D-League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws, per Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe.
"I would make that a decision on him and our staff," Stevens said. "That is something that has been discussed, probably some positives and negatives to that, but at the end of the day, it is an option as part of his rehabilitation."
This isn't one of those career reclamation projects that the D-League has seen of late (e.g. Antoine Walker, Ricky Davis). It's not even really about fine-tuning his touch.
It's simply a way for Rondo to test his body at game speed—or as close as he can get to it without hitting the NBA waters head first.
"It's not really a rehab assignment as much to get your wind," Stevens said, via Comcast SportsNet's Phil Perry.
That's been one of Rondo's big sticking points in talking about his recovery. While he's increased his practice workload, he's still working toward getting his body in position to make this injury a one-time thing, as he told Baxter Holmes of The Boston Globe.
"I don’t want to come back and not be fully 100 percent as far as my health and me being in shape as well," the mercurial point guard said. "Because the worst thing is me coming back and not being in shape and have another injury."
Rondo might have a reason to exercise caution with his rehab. He's already seen several big stars—Derrick Rose, Kobe Bryant, Russell Westbrook—return from serious injury only to be shut down again this season.
There is no foolproof way for the Celtics to protect Rondo's body. But getting him a few games—or just some additional practice time, even—might help him with the always-important mental aspect of his recovery.
The Rondo that Boston gets back also might be a little closer to the one it last saw if he's given a little extra time for seasoning.
Should NBA players start sending rehabbing players through the D-League?
"You see this all the time in baseball, guys getting a few swings or a few innings on the mound at a AA team before coming back up to the majors," NBC Sports' Kurt Helin wrote. "Why not have Rondo out there shaking off a little rust with these guys?"
It sounds like a foreign concept, but if executed the right way, maybe it becomes standard operating procedure down the line. It will just take a trend-setting franchise like the Celtics to change the perception of D-League rehab stints.
Sort of like rolling NBA dice on a college coach. Seems like that's worked out well for Boston, doesn't it?